This is part of Fantasy and Sci-Fi Week at Gorgon Reviews!

Look, I am a big fan of all of these classic board games being turned into movies. Clue is the golden standard, and that was over thirty years ago. So why not a movie about the board game Life?

The good news about Life is that it is so expansive of a game, you can basically make it about anything, as along as it involves growing up, getting a job and family, a career, and eventually retiring. Anything could happen to you in between that. You could win a Nobel Prize! You could play the stock market. You could just not at all do anything worth while.

As long as you don’t set it in a fantasy realm, or in outer space, or anything like that, it could count as a movie about the board game.

What the fuck is this? Is this in Millionaire Estates?

Aboard the ISS, we got a lovely crew of people, crewing around, doing science, being astronauts. They grab a probe returning from Mars, hoping to analyze some soil and maybe see if they can find life. And guess what! They do! A tiny tiny microorganism, but it is life not from Earth. Hooray science!

Everyone is stoked, the world is stoked, some kid wins a contest and names it Calvin, big celebration, we are not alone! But maybe w should be alone?

Things start to go wrong on the space station. Calvin starts to grow, Calvin starts to show intelligence, and Calvin needs to eat to survive whatever he can on the ship. And you know who that means.

It means these people! Hiroyuki Sanada, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds.

The poor ISS gets destroyed and fucked up in so many different movies.

Obviously this has nothing to do with the board game, that is just a joke, but this film still has a shitty title. Life is too vague, has certainly been a title before, and isn’t as ominous as they had hoped.

I first avoided this film because it came out on my birthday, and everyone knew that Power Rangers was the bigger story there. Also despite having actors I knew in it, I thought there was not way it would be a good film.

And guess what? I actually did enjoy it. Sure, on the surface, it is basically just the movie Alien, but with a different Alien and not in deep space. Actually, it is extremely similar to Alien, including having people ignoring quarantine rules in order to doom everyone. However, we don’t get a badass female protagonist, we just get people continually sacrificing themselves for the greater good of humanity.

Despite its lack of originality, I still enjoyed it. The ending had me very tense and on the edge of my seat. The acting from Gyllenhaal and Ferguson was decent enough, and Sanada’s character made me feel incredibly sad.

I would say objectively it is not a bad thriller/horror film at all. It does get a bit messy at points, a little bit confusing not being familiar with the layout or everything they are talking about. There are plenty of worse films out there that won’t scare you, so might as well give Life a shot.

3 out of 4.

Mr. Holmes

Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbander have an interesting thing in common. Fassbender has played two different roles that McKellen has more famously played before him. They were both Magneto and they were both Macbeth.

This is all technically irrelevant, since Fassbender has never played Sherlock Holmes. But Benedict Cumberbatch has played him! And they are basically the same person.

This is a bad intro, in that I am now going to hope that Ian McKellen will play a second role that Cumberbatch had famously played before him. We can’t see McKellen as an older Alan Turing, unfortunately. That’d be preferable. Honestly, most of Cumberbatch’s roles are not super famous, so we might have to wait for McKellen to play a very old Julian Assange. I assume time travel will be involved to get this done.

Either way, that nonsense aside, I think Mr. Holmes is the first time anyone has looked at the Holmes character, super old and near death. The only one attempting to give a closer look into the man behind the myths, the man without a Watson.

Closer Look
They meant a literal closer look of course.

Sherlock Holmes (McKellen) is now very old, in his 90s, and living far away from Baker Street. Watson had finally left him after getting married, leaving Sherlock to continue work on his own. But something happened that caused him to retire from detective-ing altogether. He instead wanted to move to the coast, in a nice house alone, to become a beekeeper and read books all day long.

He isn’t alone though. No, he is too old to be alone. He has a housekeeper (Laura Linney) and her son (Milo Parker) living with them to take care of the day to day needs. And of course he has regular doctor (Roger Allam) visits for his ever declining health. Did you know he is losing his memory? He can’t remember simple things, such as the names of people he used to interact with or even just interacted with. He even forgot the boys name at one point!

Thanks to his failing memory, he has to do things before it goes away. Like stalling, with plot of him going to Japan to meet basically a stranger (Hiroyuki Sanada) to eat a flower to help with his memory. And finally reading all those damn books that Watson wrote about him, turning him into a caricature of his actual self. He sets off to write one of the famous mysteries down in his own words, one without all the pomp and circumstances, because he himself can’t remember how it ended, just that it was important. All the while passing on some wisdom to the boy in his home and hopefully stop being such a smart asshole to everyone he meets.

Also featuring Hattie Morahan and Patrick Kennedy.

I assume he is actually telling the kid about his inherent X-gene and how to exploit others.

If anything, Mr. Holmes gets points for trying something different with a character who has had dozens of film and TV iterations. We don’t even have a Watson in this film! No Watson at all! It is just one guy losing his mind. I can always appreciate it when they take an established work or character and give it a completely new flavor.

That being said, despite its originality the story ended up being a weak point. There were two stories being told through flashbacks while Holmes is hanging out in his cottage trying to remember them. The Alzheimer based plot allowed for things to take their time and force the stories to pace themselves out. It just felt lazy though watching it. It is not interesting to watch someone slowly remember events, especially if the events aren’t life threatening in any way. Memento was about a guy slowly remembering events, and it was a well done crime thriller. This one the stakes were no where near as high, so it made me wonder what the point was.

The good news is that it was for the most part well acted. Everyone played their parts well, even though it felt like McKellen was literally dying in front of the camera as the movie went on. Playing an old and enfeebled person will not get you on the cover of any magazines. It was also a gorgeous movie with its set pieces, costumes and cinematography. It just also featured a mostly forgettable story with only a bit of the wit I have come to know and love from a made up detective character.

2 out of 4.


Me and Illumination Entertainment don’t get along. They had one of the most racist kid movies in recent history with Hop, a bad Lorax, and the Despicable Me series. I thought the first film was bad, but at least I liked the minions.

Then Despicable Me 2 came out. They heard we liked minions, so they gave us a bunch more minions. It ended up being bad as well, full of shitty humor and too much minions, not enough good story.

But that made Universal, the distributor, a shit ton of money. More money than any other film they had distributed, so of course we needed MORE. More what? More Minions of course! “Fuck Gru, give us Minions!” They are now super advertised, with tiny shorts before movies, awkward commercials, lunchboxes, pencils, everything. They are printing money by having tiny yellow creatures on them that speak gibberish and sing gibberish covers of famous songs.

This film was also pushed back, but not for delays. Originally scheduled for end of 2014 release, they went with the mid-summer release instead because it had been making them pretty dang good money.

Enough money to take down Disney World? We will see…

Minions is a prequel to the Despicable Me movies, about how the large group of minions (Pierre Coffin, all of them) came into existence and how they eventually met Gru. Turns out they are basically large single celled organisms, and never really evolved into bigger and better things. Instead they were followers. Instead of looking for just the biggest and strongest creature to protect them, for whatever reason they looked for the most “despicable” person to follow, because the minions are apparently evil as fuck, despite never doing anything evil.

The minions went throughout time, following bad guys and always pissing them off or killing them from their ineptitude. Until they had to go into hiding where they made their own minion community! It was safe, but boring. It wasn’t until three minions, Kevin, Stuart, and Bob, set off to find a new big bad boss did anything change. Aka, the 1960’s. Their travels eventually introduce them to Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock) and her husband Herb (Jon Hamm), who are about to steal the crown from Queen Elizabeth (Jennifer Saunders) and take over the country.

But if the minions want in on being her slaves, they gotta prove themselves first. You know, doing evil stuff and doing the job for her. Easy peasy. And if they fail, well, eventually they will find Gru right?

Also using the voice talents of Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Geoffrey Rush as the narrator, and Hiroyuki Sanada as “Sumo Villain” because that is all they could give him, I guess.

If this was called Minion Pie, this scene could be the day that the minions died?

Watching the trailer for Minions, I had hope. It looked like it could actually be a funnier movie and maybe make me laugh. Not having to worry about the awkward bad guy + kids situation, we could focus on a better more interesting plot of shenanigans and tomfoolery. Tomfoolery we may have gotten, but not the kind of tomfoolery one would want.

The movie made me laugh just one time in 90 minutes, which is obviously a bad sign. The jokes weren’t clever. Their only attempt at appeasing the adult audience would be the several songs they included for the minions to gibberish sing, all of the songs older of course given when it takes place. But even that is incredibly lazy. That joke is more of a “Haha, do you get it? You know this song right? This is funny because it is something you know but minions singing!”

This is not to say that I am angry at the fact that they don’t speak any real language. That is part of their character design. But to have a movie focus so much on them talking to others and each other, feels terrible. We can assume everything they are saying, sure, due to the weird way their language works. But it feels more annoying than anything. They rely on side human characters and narrators to actually explain plot points, because for the most part their main characters cannot.

Additionally, having them focus on three random minions to give them some sort of personality just annoys me that the other dozens of characters are ignored. I would have rather seen them work as the cohesive group, going full on henchmen, not just a couple guys on a bad road trip.

I am surprised that it ended with them actually meeting young Gru. I figured it took place in the late 60’s so they could justifiably fit in 3-4 more Minion movies pre-Gru to milk the franchise more. A Minions 2 with young Gru would be annoying, because it gets rid of all of his character development (but maybe it would actually make him evil? That’d be a shocker). For now though, our next film with them would be Despicable Me 3 out in a few years, which promises more of the same, so it will probably suck.

I am a bit annoyed that this will probably make so much money, especially if it makes more than Inside Out, a superior film in almost every conceivable way. The success of the film just means that minions will still appear everywhere. Yes, that includes the strange memes going around that have the minions as the main picture, and then some random joke text, that has abso-fucking-lutely nothing to do with the franchise at all that old women and dumbasses share on your facebook page.

1 out of 4.

The Railway Man

The main reason I wanted to see The Railway Man was because of the song they used in the trailer. You know the one. From The Thin Red Line.

God Yu Tekkem Laef Blong Mi” . Seriously, put that song in a trailer, I am going to try and watch your movie. I will also be pissed if your movie isn’t epic enough to warrant the use of that song. Thankfully, Mr. Nobody used it in its movie, and it deserved it.

So, just saying, The Railway Man. A lot of pressure on you to not fuck this one up.

Line Up
They get bonus points for making a World War II movie without Nazis, though.

Eric (Colin Firth). He’s got a secret. He’s been hiding. Under his skin. Wait, no, that is Mr. Roboto. Sorry.

Eric really likes trains. He always has, likes to ride them, knows what makes them tick, knows a lot of trivia. He also served for Great Britain in World War II. While on duty, his company had to surrender to the Japanese military and their unit was taken to work in camps. What did they have to work on? A railroad! The Burma Railway, to be historically accurate. How zany.

Speaking of coincidences, he also met his now wife (Nicole Kidman) thanks to the trains. Trains are really a big part of this guys life.

But he actually does have some pent up secrets. Some things happened to him while he was in that POW camp. Things done to him by Takeshi Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada), the official translator for the Japanese that he would rather keep buried. But it turns out that Takeshi is still alive, in Japan, and wasn’t taken as a war criminal like the rest of Japanese soldiers from that camp.

This is good, if Eric was the kind of guy to enact revenge. But he wouldn’t do that at his age, would he?

Also starring Stellan Skarsgard as one of his old friends, and Tanroh Ishida and Jeremy Irvine as the younger Takeshie and Eric. I will let you figure out who goes with who.

Don’t just assume races stay consistent, is all I am sayin’.

I don’t think the entirety of The Railway Man lives up to the song. It’s sad, but true.

The ending is fantastic. The encounter between the two older men, combined with flashbacks during World War II. It was very dramatic, tense, and even a bit beautiful. It really kept you glued to the screen.

On the other hand, the first half of the movie tended to drag on. I think it is because see the meeting of Eric and his wife play out, then they are married. They have to give us that whole story. Then we have to have flashbacks of the POW camp. Finding out that the guy is still alive doesn’t even happen until the second half of the film.

It was quite a bore, and ruined the much better ending a bit for me.

This is a true story, but things were changed enough to ramp up the dramatic elements. I don’t care about that. I just care that presumably the beginning wasn’t changed enough to make it more interesting, just the ending. Come on. Enhance All is a way better option than Enhance End.

2 out of 4.

47 Ronin

47 Ronin ended up being a textbook example of the phrase “production hell”. The “good people” at Universal Studios decided to give the directing chair to Carl Rinsh, who has only ever done some shorts and commercials before this big budgeted movie. It was supposed to be released in December of 2012, but went 50 million over budget, and required massive reshoots.

Why reshoots? Because Universal Studios thought that Keanu Reeves would be the star of the movie. When they found out he was just a side character, they brought in new editors and had to reshoot many scenes to make him a much bigger player. After all, how else could they market this already huge huge budget movie, without a star being the star? How dare the director try and tell the actual ronin story!

Apparently lying about who the stars were wasn’t too important, given that the main poster for the film (Seen here), features a guy with bone tattoos. He is in the movie for about 5 seconds, has one or two lines, isn’t a villain, and isn’t even wearing make up. Yep, those are his real tattoos, you may remember him from the “Born This Way” Lady Gaga music video.

Yep, here are your brave 47. Not the best shape. Some old. But whatareyougonnado?

47 Ronin is actually a true story that takes place in Japan, this version is just heavily influenced by fantasy. You know, to make cooler fight scenes. But the message and plot are still there.

Early in the 18th century, Japan was in a feudal system, run by warlords. One warlord, Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) wanted to extend his rule and conquer the land of a neighboring kingdom, but he wanted to do it without being seen as the aggressor.

At the Ako castle, Lord Asano (Min Tanaka, who looks like the Japanese Bill Nighy) had to host Lord Kira and the local Shogun over for a festival. After a few blunders, Asano attempted to kill Kira (with magic influence being the cause) and he was sentenced to death. Kira has a witch (Rinko Kikuchi) working for him! With their lord dead and because Asano’s only heir was a girl, Mika (Ko Shibasaki), the shogun says that she must marry Kira, joining their kingdoms to prevent further bloodshed. Oh yeah, and all of Asano’s samurai get kicked out and lose their jobs.

A year later, the former samurai leader, Ôishi (Hiroyuki Sanada) decides it is time the remaining ronin (term meaning former Samurai) to rise up, and avenge their former lord’s death. There is of course another side story about Kai (Keanu Reeves), a half blood Japanese man, who also might be part demon. Don’t worry, he is totally a good guy too.

Also featuring Jin Akanishi as Ôishi’s son, and Takato Yonemoto as the coolest ronin in the army.

Shit, that guys sword glows. You know it is serious now.

Overall, 47 Ronin can be seen as a nice fantasy based retelling of an actual historical event. From what I can tell, the story is basically right, minus the parts with the demon raised half blood. Not sure where that came from, but I am not an expert on Japanese history.

On the other other hand, while watching, you can definitely tell the problems that went into production. Scenes are edited weirdly, and I was able to notice that although Reeves’ character was involved, he wasn’t 100% involved. Calling him the main character is silly, because Hiroyuki Sananda as Ôishi is clearly the main lead according to the story. Another way to imagine it is that Sanada plays the main lead, and that Reeves is the strongest weapon in his army, so they are both important.

The acting could have been better, and honestly, I would have liked better CGI effects than what was offered. Sure, the dragon fight scene was nifty, but multiple “villains” had similar styles and it just felt like I was getting a few rehashed fights. Unfortunately the movie will most likely bomb, because the story is great. It just needed a lot more polishing.

2 out of 4.

The Wolverine

I went in to see The Wolverine with one thing on my mind. It couldn’t be worse than X-Men Origins: Wolverine. What a terrible movie. Maybe the worst big comic movie since Superman Returns.

Basically, the bar is set pretty low. So as long as the plot makes sense and there are some decent action scenes, I will probably find it okay

There are gratuitous amounts of shirtless scenes as well. Dem veins.

This story takes place after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, with some flashbacks before half of the events in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) is still dead, she just happens to be haunting the dreams of Logan / Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Logan has now escaped to the Canadian wilderness to be left alone.

Enter Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a spunky young Asian woman who can see how people will die (not a mutant) and will not leave Logan alone. In Nagasaki, right before we dropped that big bomb, Logan saved a young general’s life from the blast and radiation. Mr. Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi) became one of the richest people in Japan after that incident! Now, he is about to die, and he wants Logan to come to Japan to say goodbye to the man who saved his life.

Of course, Mr. Yashida wants more than a goodbye. He still wants to live and he believes he can offer Logan a way to finally die by transferring his healing powers. Interesting proposition. Logan also stepped deep into a company power struggle. Yashida’s son Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada) thinks he is gaining control of the company, but it is actually going to the granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto). To make matters worse, the Yakuza and a ninja clan (including Will Yun Lee) are also involved!

At the same time, Wolverine gets poisoned by Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), the only other mutant in the movie, causing him to lose most of his healing ability. Oh no! He has to fix all the kidnappings, act as a bodyguard, figure out who is the biggest asshole in the room, and try to not die. Typical Tuesday.

Adamantium on Adamantium porn.
To reiterate, I had only two criteria that I needed met: a plot that makes sense, and interesting action scenes.

First let’s look at the plot. This film was far too long. They focused a lot on plot and character development, but it wasn’t good plot or character development. Especially in the middle, it dragged on a lot, made more relevant by the lack of action.

The plot is actually a bit confusing. Apparently everyone is a bad guy! The ending attempts to wrap up the multiple plot lines with a big reveal, but instead a few of the plot lines no longer make any sense. Those plot lines remain unanswered the rest of the movie, swept under the rug, hoping no one would notice.

Alright, so the plot is a mess. (Nerd Quandary: In X2 we found out that Logan’s memories after his Adamantium surgery had been wiped. It was explained in X-Men Origins: Wolverine that those memories were lost thanks to adamantium bullets to the head. He only regains a few memories thanks to Xavier’s help, yet he is supposed to remember World War II? Hmm…)

The next thing I have to look at is the action. There is a really interesting train scene that is visually pleasing. The arrow/ninja scene had a great take down. But outside of those two moments, everything was lackluster. The final scene felt really cheap, and a lot of that has to do with Viper as a villain. She is a mutant and has powers, but they are never really explained. She just does more and more snake like things throughout the film, but it all just feels fake. She is also incredibly pointless in the long run.

Crap, I didn’t know what my rating would be until I got to this part of my review. Turns out I disliked it more than I thought. STILL better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Far better. The story at least tries to be interesting, and gives some entertainment value. Unfortunately, relooking over the experience, it was overall less than stellar.

We can all feel good at the fact that X-Men: Days Of Future Past comes out next year. It happens to be one of the most ambitious film ideas I’ve ever heard of, and the subject of the scene in the credits.

1 out of 4.